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Murray: Local wines value comes from supply and demand
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Wine of the month

Dancing Bull Sauvignon Blanc 2008

The wine: Medium-bodied, dry white table wine
The grapes: 99 percent sauvignon blanc, 1 percent semillon
The source: California
The verdict: Finally, a California sauvignon blanc that's reminiscent of the crisp, citrussy wines from New Zealand. Sauvignon blanc has been one of my favorite wines for many years, primarily because it's versatile. And sauvignon blanc wines made in the fume blanc style show oakiness and richness. Traditional sauvignon blanc wines are narrower in the mouth and bring a bit more acid bite to the palate. This one is in the latter category. Dancing Bull wines rate high on my "value wine" chart — good, well-made wines at sensible prices. I find this sauvignon blanc to be a nearly perfect seafood wine; but it also will stand up to heartier fare. I'm going to "unscrew" a bottle (nope, no cork here) next time I make my Portuguese codfish, with capers, shallots and lemon slices. When you take a sniff and a sip think grapefruit peel.
The price: About $13

Howdy, and Happy New Year! It's quite likely that by the time you read this, my bride and I will be tanning our elderly bodies in the sunshine of the Florida Keys. About this time of year, we genuinely miss South Florida, where we lived for 15 years. This year, we ain't missin' it, we're enjoyin' it.

Sorry.

As a result of our extended winter sojourn, this column will take a break for at least February. It all depends on how bad the sunburn is ... and how loudly my editor complains.

But for now, let's start 2010 (whatever did happen to Y2K?) with some queries I've received from friends and readers over the past couple of months.

Question: I enjoy your columns, especially the ones about Georgia wineries. But I wonder why local wines, such as merlot, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, etc., are priced so much higher than, for example, wines from California, Australia and France. Can you explain that for me?

Answer: Good question. And I contacted Steve Gibson, general manager of Habersham Winery, whose main tasting room is just south of Helen in Sautee Nacoochee. Here is his response.

"There are several aspects to address. First, although you may find wines from the mentioned wine-producing areas at a lower price than most Georgia wines, it is likely the same large producer offers wines at prices higher than those of a comparable Georgia wine. For example, you can buy a merlot from BV in California and pay $5 a bottle in a chain or discount retailer. BV also produces a merlot that is sold in higher-end wine shops at $50-$75.

"Supply and demand and scale of operations play a significant role. There is a small, finite supply of Georgia-grown grapes (the largest Georgia winery produces only about 15,000 cases annually) and those grapes are typically used to make the best wine possible. Those wines are sold at the winery or distributed to a local or regional market. Huge wine-producing areas have an unlimited supply of grapes, some grown for specific vintage and appellation varietals in limited quantities, available at the winery, better wine shops and restaurants. Others are grown for mass production and are distributed to a national/international market.

"The regions mentioned also represent some of the best grape-growing areas of the world, and while climatic conditions in many areas, such as Georgia, allow grape growing, it can be more challenging and costly than in these premier growing regions."

Q: I have a problem I hope you can resolve. I make my own wine and like to use recycled wine bottles - both from our own consumption and from friends. Frequently I encounter empty bottles that still have some of the adhesive residue from the original labels, and that stuff is really hard to remove. Any suggestions?

A: Yes! I mentioned this product to Tim Thompson, who writes the always helpful column about tips and tricks in The Times on Sundays. He wrote about it and I'm going to sing its praises here. It's a liquid called Goo Gone. It's wonderful for removing sticky stuff, such as wine label adhesive.

Of course, you have to rinse the remnants of the Goo Gone from the surface, but a little soap and water and it's gone. Doesn't even smell bad, either.

Q: Judging by some of your comments in your column, you and I got started enjoying wine about the same time, early to mid 1980s. I've seen the California wine industry grow tremendously and am curious how many wineries are in existence in California now.

A: I predate you by a few years, in terms of wine interest. But, yes, we have seen things grow and change; public tastes and awareness have grown in broad degrees of sophistication. We've gone from "I'll have a glass of Chablis" (the cheap, blended white from California, not the good stuff from Burgundy) in the early '80s to today's often impressive arrays of wines by the glass in better eateries. I did a count of California wineries listed in one of my best old wine books, "The Wines of California," by one of the giants of the 20th century wine world, Roy Andries de Groot, published in 1982. According to his meticulous index, one could find 172 active California wineries at that time. Today, according to The Wine Institute, the primary trade organization of the California wine industry, there are 2,843 wineries in the state.

That's phenomenal growth, which is reflective of how far we Americans have come in the last quarter century.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column runs on the first Wednesday of the month.

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